Stellenbosch- “We all have a deep seated need to live with justice,” that was the golden thread that ran through the discussion that took place at the Israeli Apartheid Week discussion at Stellenbosch University yesterday.
This week marks the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid week. The Israeli Apartheid week seeks to draw support and raise awareness of the alleged apartheid policies that are perpetrated against Palestinians by the state of Israel.
An Israeli peace activist, Miko Peled, was the keynote speaker at the discussion hosted by PSC Stellenbosch in partnership with the theology students at Stellenbosch University.
Peled comes from a well-known Zionist family. When his niece was killed in a suicide attack it prompted him to join a dialogue group where he met Palestinians on equal footing. Peled says that he believes that it is possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace in a shared homeland
Israeli apartheid towards Palestinians should not be viewed in terms of South Africa’s apartheid past. Instead the alleged apartheid practices that are conducted toward Palestinians should be viewed in terms of international law regulations.
Colonialism and apartheid are prohibited by international law. The United Nations define Apartheid as the systematic oppression of one group over another with the intent of sustaining power.
Breyten Breytenbach, a guest speaker at the event, started his speech by saying that his views will be very partisan and that he will make no apology for it. He argued that the state of Israel has been protected from critique because of the history of the Jewish people.
However, Breytenbach lashed out and made the argument that no amount of past suffering can condone or justify injustices committed to another group. Breytenbach continued to say that the international sense of justice is hypocritical and that Palestinians are enduring gross injustices with the assistance of the western world.
Breytenbach told the audience that South Africans have a special responsibility toward Palestinians. The oppression of another “forces us to take a moral reckoning and take responsibility for one another,” he said.
For many the Israeli-Palestinian issue seems very contentious and complicated. Peled argues that the word “complicated” is code for telling people to rather not bother with the problem.
According to Peled the Isreali-Palestine issue is quite simple and can be reduced to the simple idea that a tyrannical government needs to be replaced by real democracy.
Peled argued that colonialism and racism are not Jewish values and thus Zionism and Judaism are at opposite ends of the spectrum.